March 22, 2002

Lab gives a lift to Oak Ridge

On March 13, Manny Ringer left Livermore in the national interest. Manny’s moving on to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to help some colleagues who need a lift. Most Livermore employees didn’t know Manny by name, but they recognized him when they saw him.

He wasn’t hard to spot in a crowd. Manny’s 29 years old, stands 14 stories tall, weighs 1,000 tons and packs a 320-foot boom — not a figure you’re likely to forget. Also, Manny Ringer is actually his nickname. His full moniker is "Manitowoc 4600 Ringer Heavy-Lift Crane." But no one ever called him Mr. Crane — at least to his face.

Livermore rigging engineer John Reed, who managed Manny and prepped him for his major lifts, said, "Just a few percent of mobile cranes of Manny’s generation worldwide have his reach and capacity. He’s big, he’s powerful, he’s safe."

Manny’s career with DOE began in 1983 as a $3.4 million-dollar rookie acquisition for the Nevada Test Site’s underground nuclear testing program. Starting out with a fresh coat of paint and a 600-ton lifting capacity, Manny lowered devices and diagnostics down-hole for events at Yucca Flats and Pahute Mesa.

But the 1992 nuclear testing moratorium put a cap on Manny’s NTS career in the form of "ICECAP," the last scheduled underground test at Yucca Flats — a shot that was never fired. Manny stood patiently by the ICECAP tower, waiting to swing into action. He remained there idle for seven years. His metal muscle and steel sinew sagged unflexed, as the desert sun bleached his paint and tufts of rust blossomed on his boom.

However, Manny’s talents were impossible to hide — even at a vast, remote location like the Nevada Test Site. Once rediscovered, it was just a matter of some fancy negotiations and plain paperwork before DOE put Manny on the road to Livermore to work on the National Ignition Facility. As becoming a figure of his stature, Manny didn’t travel lightly. His entourage totaled 66 truckloads, including nearly a dozen nine-axle trailers.

At Livermore, Manny emerged immediately as a big man on campus. In addition to hoisting the NIF target chamber twice, Manny performed more than 250 power-lifts. He placed 24 concrete roof trusses at 80 tons each, as well as 220 multi-ton roof planks. Manny also set the 30-ton target diagnostics vessel. Single-handedly Manny performed tasks that would have required three separate contractors.

Manny became a darling of the news media, too. The 287,000-pound, 33-foot round target chamber may have been the star during his lifts, but Manny appeared in all the photos and television footage in his critical supporting role.

But alas, the NIF target chamber rests in place, and the building has been "topped out." In a career that has lifted millions of pounds — and millions of dollars — of technology, it was time again for Manny to move on to a place where his gargantuan size and Herculean strength could be put to use. Manny’s co-workers at Livermore searched the DOE complex to find the perfect partnership at Oak Ridge.

It was quite a change for Manny moving from the deserts of Nevada to the fertile vineyards of Livermore. And it was quite a change from lowering delicate scientific assemblies down-hole to lifting construction members many stories above ground. Likewise, Manny will notice the contrast between the Livermore laser and the Synchronous Neutron Source in Tennessee.
But perhaps the biggest change awaits Manny inside Oak Ridge: The people there have already christened their new crane "Big Bertha."